Kawasaki adapts to times of crisis and brings the popular Super Sherpa back as a 2009 model year. The bike stands among the most affordable means of transportation (if we exclude the public one, of course) so it addresses to those who need to commute, but only dispose of a small budged in order to become the proud owners of something that’s economic, light, versatile, easy to handle and offers the possibility to go off-road; in less words, the 2009 Kawasaki Super Sherpa.
The fact that the small dual-purpose Kawi can be bought for half the money that Harley owners pay for accessories doesn’t mean that the bike misses modern goodies such as electric starting and multi-function digital instrumentation while the fit and finish is excellent, like on any Kawasaki motorcycle.
But let’s not drift away from the main subject here, which is the 249cc, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single powering the Sherpa. This is built to deliver good low and midrange torque, immediate throttle response while being highly economic. The fact that it does that while the bike travels both on and off the road is Sherpa’s greatest quality. The quarter-liter motor is fueled by a 34mm Mikuni BST carburetor, features CDI ignition and vibrations should be almost undetectable due to the presence of a gear-driven balancer.
The 63 mpg that Kawi claims the Sherpa is capable of are, if it is to go on the manufacturer’s hand here, definitely achieved by the presence of a sixth gear. This enhances the bike’s ability to commute cheaply and the maximum speed that it achieves as well – 80 mph.
Now, because it is supposed to go off-road, the ’09 Sherpa comes with decently sized multi-spoke wheels (21 inches front and 18 inches rear), but there’s plenty more behind those units. A 36mm telescopic fork offers 9.1 inches of front wheel travel while at the back, the Uni-Trak single shock is preload/rebound adjustable and capable of 7.3 inches of wheel travel so there’s no doubt that it will deal with tough riding situations properly.
There’s a skidplate protecting the air cooled motor, but at a ground clearance of 10.6 inches there aren’t many chances for the small thumper to suffer from hits. The seat is 32.7 inches high. Oups! Where did that came from? Isn’t Kawasaki aware of the fact that shorter people will want to ride this thing? I mean, it is damn user-friendly so why shouldn’t they? I guess the seat height was just a compromise for the more than decent ground clearance.
Also taking in consideration the fact that the ’09 Kawasaki Super Sherpa has a total weight of 282.1 lbs (with all the fluids included), it makes for great representative of the starting level of the dual-sport class.
The 2009 Yamaha XT250 stands as an even more economic motorcycle (claimed fuel economy is 73 mpg) providing a smooth pass from trail to tarmac and even offering that much needed lower seat (31.9 inches), although not with much. Powered by a carbureted 249cc, air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke single, this thing only needs five gears in order to stand as a commuter, but long travel suspensions are definitely a must for those off-road incursions. The 11.2 inches ground clearance of the XT shows that no compromise has to be made between it and the low seat height, so most riders feel better off with the Yamaha rather than the Kawasaki. We certainly understand that especially because of the $4,690 base MSRP.
Honda offers a rather less refined alternative, the CRF230L, a bike destined for the trails and which happens to be street legal too. It does start at $4,999, but is a consecrated name in this business. The engine in this case is a 223cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke; SOHC, two-valve unit and the gearbox does feature a sixth gear so I guess the bike’s good on the streets too. Seat height is 31.9 inches.
Most likely, the Super Sherpa goes against the 2009 Suzuki DR200SE. As the model name indicates, this features a smaller (199cc) engine which is as well air-cooled and carbureted. Although featuring a five-speed gearbox, a 32 inches seat and nothing special in what concerns the chassis, the 278 lbs heavy DR is likely to keep benefiting of its share of the pie until the Sherpa gets back in shape. MSRP for the DR200SE starts at $4,199.
Kawasaki made no excess of material when designing the new Sherpa and so the bike ended up looking both slim and simple, just as the rest of the bikes in its category do. The bodywork is pretty much composed from the 2.4 gallons tank, the seat and the rear fender while up front this thing features a square headlight and a fender sticking as close as possible to that grippy front tire. Now that’s a first for the class as dual-sports usually feature a high front fender.
The wheels do look like a little too big for this KLR in miniature, but the bike is overall compact and very well put together. We appreciate the quality fit and finish achieved despite the low price. Those round mirrors look nice two even though we reckon the headlight would have did so too if it would have been inspired by XT’s rather than DR’s.
As for 2009, the Olive Green / Ebony color scheme is precisely what the bike needs in order to stand out from the crowd and blend in with the woods.
The Kawasaki Super Sherpa has a lot of catching up to do until reaching its former glory and a low suggested retail price sounds like the best solution for riders to get into it again. So for 2009, the smallest Kawi quarter-liter model starts at $4,499.
With this new model that Kawasaki ads to their dual purpose lineup, they simply fill in a gap which would have otherwise restrained buyers from starting on a Kawi. The Super Sherpa sounds like a good alternative for the other three bikes mentioned as competitors and the fact that it is cheaper (if we exclude the smaller DR) helps a lot. It represents the power to commute/exploit/tour on virtually all kinds of surfaces and it wears the Kawasaki name on it.
Engine and Transmission
Engine: 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve single cylinder
Bore x stroke: 72.0 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 9.3:1
Fuel System: Single 34mm Mikuni BST34 carburetor
Final drive: Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Semi-double cradle steel
Rake / trail: 28 degrees / 4.2 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 36mm telescopic fork / 9.1 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Uni-Trak® single shock system adjustable preload and 20-way rebound damping adjustability / 7.3 in.
Front tire: 2.75 x 21
Rear tire: 4.10 x 18
Front brake / rear brake: Single hydraulic disc / Single hydraulic disc
Overall length: 81.9 in.
Overall width: 30.7 in.
Overall height: 46.9 in.
Ground Clearance: 10.6 in.
Seat height: 32.7 in.
Curb weight: 282.1 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 2.4 gal.
Wheelbase: 54.1 in.